Turkish barbers living in Sandbach have described the horrors their relatives were facing following this week’s devastating earthquakes in their home country.
Southern Turkey and northern Syria were shaken by two powerful quakes – said to be among the deadliest this century – hours apart on Monday morning, which by yesterday (Wednesday) had claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people with thousands more injured.
The first struck in the early hours of Monday and had a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale followed hours later by another that recorded a 7.5 magnitude.
Sandbach man Vedat Tarhan’s family lives in Turkey, including his sister who lives with her one-year-old son and husband in Malatya, a city just north of the epicentre.
“The cities aren’t cities anymore,” Mr Tarhan, who moved to the UK in 2019, told the Chronicle on Monday.
The 36-year-old was on the phone to his sister when the second tremor hit. Recalling the call, he said: “She wasn’t screaming, she was crying, and you could hear that she was scared.”
Mr Tarhan, who owns Vedat’s barbershop on Penda Way, added: “She’s not injured but she’s lost her house and she’s had to move into the local mosque. She doesn’t have anywhere to go and neither does a lot of her husband’s family.
“Because she has her little boy, she rang my brothers to see if they could help them and her husband’s family. So, they are driving over from my hometown to pick her up and 20 others.”
His brothers made the journey yesterday (Wednesday) to Malatya from Bitlis, a city in eastern Turkey. It usually takes six hours to travel between the two cities, but it took more than 10, as they were navigating hazardous roads that were destroyed in the quake.
Mr Tarhan is not the only Turkish man in Sandbach to have connections in the disaster zone. His colleague, Mehmet Tekagac was also worried for his family this week.
The 29-year-old has relatives living in Satirhuyuk, a small village on the outskirts of Gaziantep – a city at the epicentre of Monday’s first earthquake. The distance between the two is similar to that of Sandbach to Manchester, and it is also a similar size to Sandbach, according to Mr Tekagac.
“There have already been 100 people that have died in my village, but nobody is coming to help. There are no rescue teams,” he said.
“All the buildings have been destroyed in the village and the rescue teams are only going to the cities.”
Mr Tekagac, who was last in Satirhuyuk in 2019, explained that the village did not have access to any equipment or machinery, such as diggers that could be used to move the rubble, forcing villagers to use their hands to dig out casualties.
He showed the Chronicle a series of messages posted in a social media group for residents of the Turkish town. It included a stream of pictures of people who had since died as a result of the disaster.
Mr Tekagac continued: “I have spoken to a few of my cousins who are good, but my dad’s aunties and their families aren’t.
“One of my other cousins was taken out from the rubble with a broken leg, and we don’t know where his grandparents are.
“It’s not just happened in one place, and I have seen online that people are staying in their cars at night in the cold because their homes have been destroyed.”
Many that may have survived the initial disaster face homelessness in freezing conditions with temperatures dropping to -5 degrees.
Mr Tarhan’s barbershop will be donating all its profits on Saturday toward aid for those affected by the disaster in his home country.
He added: “We want to try and help and do whatever we can.
“At the moment those affected need as much food and warmth as they can get because it is brutally cold in the east at this time of year; it’s below freezing.”
Donations to the appeal are also being accepted by the shop.